5th Excerpt from The Book of Shards

Again this one is from the Alberta Potters' Association newsletter way back when. Enjoy!


AnotherExcerpt from

the Book of Shards…

This excerpt was taken from a conversation that my wife and I had with Jack Troy.


We walked up to Jack’s kiln just outside of his home in Pennsylvania, and just before we started the obligatory kiln tour I noticed a pile of shards just of to the side, with plants and years of debris scattered amongst the shards. Making a mental note of its location, we continued on with the tour, all the while my thoughts kept drifting back to the shard pile. After Jack had shown us the kiln, stacks of oak and hickory wood and the neat kiln game that has kept many a stoker amused in the wee hours of a firing, I went for the shard pile and started to rummage, some what callously and without thought to my host I must admit, but these were no ordinary shards and the urge was too great.

Jack seemed somewhat amused as I picked up a few pieces, held them up to the light, or grabbed a particular handle and tried it out for fit. I then proceeded to talk to him about my thoughts and ideas of shards and almost instantly he had a story about the topic. A story that not only belongs in the book of shards, but is closely linked to the reason for the books creation. It follows as such…….

Jack had just completed a firing with a group of students, (from Juniata College or from a workshop held some were else, I am uncertain) and had gathered every one in a circle with their favorite piece from the firing in hand. Each person would pass their prized pot around and every one got the chance to look and handle the pot, then voice their opinions.  I thought this to be a great way to teach critiques, and would be invaluable to the students. However it was a student that was to teach something to everyone that day.

The turn to share came to one student with a pot that the group had expressed great interest in. One by one they got to look at the pot, handle it and then remarked at what they liked about it.  One by one until the pot came back to its maker. Then he stood up and asked the group what they liked most about the pot. Again, one by one made their thoughts known. Then at the end he went to the middle of the circle and smashed the pot to the ground! Shards flew through the air, twinkling as they fell to the ground, accompanied by a collective gasp. “why did you do that?” “What the…..” “That was such a nice pot….” The comments flew fast and at times furiously. Once everyone had calmed down the student once again rose and addressed the group.

“ This” pointing to the pile of shards in the centre of the circle. “is just clay. It is just shards now. You see the pot was not the most important thing that you saw or felt, it was the experience that the pot gave you that is the most important thing.”

This action of the unknown student echoes some of my own thoughts. It is the moment that I hold precious. And for a potter there are so many moments in the making, firing and even if one is lucky, in the selling. It is the experience that holds meaning in these objects made of clay that I hold so precious. Most pots are destined to be shards and nothing lasts forever, but moments…….moments are to be held on to as long as you can.

Christian D Barr

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